שבת טעם החיים נצבים-וילך תשע”א – ראש השנה תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5771 – Rosh HaShanah 5772
A “Time” for Change
אחת שאלתי מאת ה’ אותה אבקש שבתי בבית ה’ כל ימי חיי לחזות בנעם ה’ ולבקר בהיכלו, one thing I asked of HaShem, that shall I seek: Would that I dwell in the House of HaShem all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of HaShem and to contemplate in His Sanctuary. (Tehillim 27:4)
לכל זמן ועת לכל חפץ תחת השמים, everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the sun (Koheles 3:1). What does time mean to a Jew? There is a time to study Torah, a time to pray and a time to work to earn a living. What does it mean when we say it is an עת רצון, a time of favor? How do we define different times in our lives? “I had a good time,” I had a terrible time.” What do these expressions mean?
As we approach Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, known as the Days of Awe, we begin to reflect on the past year and what we did right and what we could have done better. From the onset of Elul through Shemini Atzeres we recite every day the psalm of לדוד ה’ אורי, By Dovid, HaShem is my light. Dovid HaMelech offers us an interesting perspective of how we should use our time. It is said (Tehillim 27:4) אחת שאלתי מאת ה’ אותה אבקש שבתי בבית ה’ כל ימי חיי לחזות בנעם ה’ ולבקר בהיכלו, one thing I asked of HaShem, that shall I seek: Would that I dwell in the House of HaShem all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of HaShem and to contemplate in His Sanctuary. Dovid HaMelech speaks on behalf of all the Jewish People. While this supplication is certainly altruistic, one must wonder how it can be a reality for every single Jew. Most Jews do not have the luxury to sit in the Study Hall their entire lives studying Torah. What is the deeper meaning of Dovid HaMelech’s request?
To answer this question, we will examine the one seemingly superfluous word that Dovid HaMelech uses in his request. This is the word אותה, that. Is Dovid HaMelech referring back to the one thing that he is requesting? If that is so, why does he need to emphasize “that?” There is another instance in the Torah where the word אותה is used, and also appears superfluous. It is said (Bamidbar 26:59) ושם אשת עמרם יוכבד בת לוי אשר ילדה טותה ללוי במצרים ותלד לעמרם את אהרן ואת משה ואת מרים אחתם, the name of Amram’s wife was Yocheved, daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram Aharon, Moshe, and their sister Miriam. The Daas Zekeinim MiBaalei HaTosfos (Ibid) offer us an unusual interpretation into the word אותה. They write that אותה was actually the name of Levi’s wife. What is the significance of this name?
In Hebrew, the letters א and ע are interchangeable. Thus, there is an association between the word את and the word עת. There are many instances throughout Scripture where the word את, in the words of our Sages, is בא לרבות, comes to include something else. For example, it is said (Bereishis 1:1) בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ, in the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth. The Medrash (Rashi Bereishis 1:14 citing Bereishis Rabbah 12:4) states that the word את comes to include the offspring of the heavens and of the earth. Regarding Yocheved’s birth, the Gemara (Sota 12a) states that she was born on the way down to Egypt, between the walls. This is why the Torah refers to the seventy souls who descended to Egypt, despite the fact that the actual count in the Torah only bears out sixty-nine people. The missing person was Yocheved. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 3:8) states that the tribe of Levi is accustomed to being counted prior to birth, as we see from Yocheved and we see that the tribe of Levi was counted by Moshe in the Wilderness from when the children were one month old. The wordאותה therefore teaches us that Yocheved’s mother was the forerunner of bearing a child who would be counted early on. את לרבות, the את in Yocheved’s mother’s name comes to include future descendants of the tribe of Levi who would be counted earlier on. Similarly, the word עת, translated as time, comes to include other times and objects. An example of this is that the Torah refers to the man who escorted the he-goat to Azazel on Yom Kippur as an איש עתי, which is literarily translated as a designated man. In a deeper sense, however, he was the one who was responsible for removing the sins of the Jewish People. It is said (Vayikra 16:22) ונשא השעיר עליו את כל עונתם אל ארץ גזרה ושלח את השעיר במדבר, the he-goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land, and he should send the he-goat to the desert. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 65:15) states that the word עונתם is a contraction for the words עונת תם, the sins of the perfect one, a reference to Yaakov. It is noteworthy that the word עתי is an acrostic for the words עונת תם יעקב, the sins of the perfect one, Yaakov. Thus, the word עת also comes to include the sins of the Jewish People, which were removed when the he-goat was pushed off the cliff.
Returning to the concept of time, we can now better understand Dovid HaMelech’s request that he dwell in the House of HaShem all the days of his life. The word שבתי, when rearranging the letters spells out תשבי, a reference to אליהו התשבי, the one who will herald the Final Redemption. The words כל ימי חיי, as we learn in the Hagadah Shel Pesach, come to include the Messianic Era. Thus, Dovid HaMelech was praying that we merit the days of redemption when every Jew will be granted the privilege of being fully engaged in the study of Torah. We now have a new appreciation of time, because time does not just refer to the month that we are in. Rather, time comes to include all the time that existed and that will exist in the world.
Let us take a closer look at Rosh HaSshana and we see how this is the essence of these holy days. In the Slichos we recite the words הפותח שער לדופקי בתשובה, Who opens the gate to those who knock with repentance. The Imrei Emes asks, are the gates of repentance not always open? Why does one have to knock on the gates? He answers that on Rosh HaShanah we blow Shofar, which is referred to in the Gemara as a חכמה, an art. In the Maariv prayer we recite the words בחכמה פותח שערים ובתבונה משנה עתים so we see that with חכמה we can open up new gates. Based on the words of the Imrei Emes we can suggest that this is the meaning of the continuation of the passage ובתבונה משנה עתים,. Repentance is referred to as בינה, understanding. We are therefore declaring that with our repentance we are capable of changing time. Repentance, the Gemara (Pesachim 54a) teaches us, was created before the creation of the world. This teaches us that repentance is beyond time. When we repent, we are creating a new time. The Sfas Emes explains that Shabbos by Minchah is an עת רצון and the month of Elul is an עת רצון, a time when HaShem favors us. Although HaShem does not change and is above time, there is a change in the time, as the time can receive the favor and the abundance form HaShem, Who is above time. In Elul, writes the Sfas Emes, this change occurs before the renewal of the new year. In simpler terms, this means that when HaShem sees that we are willing to make a change in ourselves, then He changes the natural order of the world and accepts our repentance. This idea is overwhelming, as we now know that we can actually change the parameters of the world with our repentance. We no longer have to figure out of times are good, bad or so-so. It is our change in attitude and in action that affects the cosmos, and as we come closer to Rosh HaShanah, we should merit experiencing the change in our lives. Once we are willing to change, HaShem will change the times for us for good, for peace and for life.
Shabbos in Action through the Prism of the Parashah
In this week’s parsha it is said (Devarim 30:20) לאהבה את ה’ אלקיך לשמע בקלו ולדבקה בו כי הוא חייך וארך ימיך לשבת על האדמה אשר נשבע ה’ לאבתיך לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב לתת להם, to love HaShem, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, to dwell upon the land that HaShem swore to your forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov, to give them. The word לשבת, to dwell, can also be read as for Shabbos. This alludes to the idea that when the Jewish People observe two Shabbosos, we will merit the Ultimate Redemption and return to the Land that HaShem swore to give to our forefathers.
Robbed On Rosh Hashana
The Skolye Rebbe once returned to his apartment on the first day of Rosh Hashanah between Shacharis and Mussaf. He opened the door to find total chaos; it was obvious that he had been robbed. On further investigation, he found that the apartment had been totally ransacked. His possessions that were stolen included those he had brought from Europe and were irreplaceable, such as treasured family heirlooms that had belonged to his illustrious ancestors.
Years later, when the Rebbe was very sick at the end of his life, the Rebbe retold this story. He said, “I returned to shul to daven before the amud. The loss that I had suffered was put completely out of my thoughts. It was as if nothing at all had happened.” The Rebbe related this story because he was absorbed in a cheshbon hanefesh. He felt, with his customary anivus, that this incident, in which he endured a tremendous loss without any negative feelings, was one of his main zechusim. (Torah Luminaries)
What Is Scarier Than The Russian Army?
Reb Yechezkel Levenstein, a Kelmer and a student of the Chafetz Chaim, was the Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshivah during their flight from the Nazis through Siberia to Shanghai. Shortly before the war began, the Jews were apprehensive and uncertain about the times ahead. Furthermore, there was great uncertainty about which enemy was the worse of two evils, the Germans or the Russians. A palpable sense of doom was felt everywhere. The yeshivah students had already heard ominous rumors about the vicious behavior of the Russians, and their hatred of everything religious.
R’ Levenstein gave a shmues shortly before Rosh Hashanah of 1939, which was also shortly before the official beginning of World War II. R’ Chatzkel was aware that he was facing a Beis HaMedrash filled with Bnei Torah with great fear in their hearts, but he was not pleased with the source of the fear. He said, “It is not because of the Russians that you need to fear. It is only the Yom HaDin that you need to fear.” The absolute conviction in R’ Chatzkel’s voice helped instill emunah and bitachon in the heart of each person present, and fortified them for the difficult times ahead. (Reb Chatzkel)
Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg: No!!! That Was Your Whole Rosh HaShanah!
Rav Tzvi Meir tells a story that goes something like this. A person meets his friend after Rosh Hashana and asks him “Nu, so how did your Rosh Hashana go?” He replies “It was beautiful. The baal tefila didn’t leave a dry eye in the shul. The meals were full of Divrei Torah and zemiros. The afternoons we learned straight without dozing or schmoozing for a minute. The kids behaved like angels” “Wow! Gevaldig. Sounds like it was perfect” his friend replies. “Well almost perfect. The kid next to me in Shul couldn’t stop making noise during Mussaf and the father the “Groisse Tzaddik” was so busy shuckling away that he didn’t do anything besides keep shuckling. I had to shish the kid half of Mussaf, besides that it was perfect.
To this Rav Tzvi Meir says, “Fool! That was your whole test of Rosh Hashana. Maybe your whole year depended on your reaction to the kid. The rest of Yom Tov was not your Nisayon!” This Rosh Hashana, don’t decide for yourself what Rosh Hashana is all about. Submit yourself to what the King of all Kings decides is your particular avodah. Hatzlacha Rabba and Gut Yom Tov! (www.Revach.net)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5771-Rosh HaShanah 5772
Is sponsored lizeicher nishmas the father of Dora Weiss and Betty Gasner – Aryeh Leib Ben Dovid ob”m, niftar 18 Elul, and the father of George Weiss – Avraham Simcha Ben Yitzchok Sender ob”m, niftar 4 Tishrei.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Kesiva Vachasima Tova and a Gut Gebentched Yohr
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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